World

A defiant Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shrugged off international condemnation of his recent remarks on Israel and Judaism and for the third time in a week described the Holocaust as a "myth" that Europeans have used to set up a Jewish state in the midst of the Islamic world. Addressing thousands of Iranians in the city of Zahedan, he said Wednesday, "This is our proposal: Give a part of your own land in Europe, the United States, Canada, or Alaska to them, so that the Jews can establish their country." Ahmadinejad provoked a chorus of outrage in October by calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Israel's Foreign Ministry called the latest comments "outrageous." A European Union spokeswoman said they were "completely unacceptable," and senior German leaders blasted them as "shocking."

Four Palestinians died and four others were wounded in an air-strike by Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip. The mid- afternoon attack Wednesday targeted a car traveling toward the main passage for cargo between Gaza and Israel. The dead were identified as operatives of the Popular Resistance Committees, and Israeli officials said they were on their way to carry out an attack. The car was loaded with explosives, the officials said. The airstrike was the third by Israeli forces in Gaza in a week.

A Protestant church erupted in flames and the windows of another were smashed early Wednesday in a mainly Middle Eastern neighborhood of Sydney, Australia, as tensions remained high following the racially charged rioting of earlier this week. Police also were investigating text messages aimed at inciting both sides to new violence around Sydney and in other areas next weekend, although a leader of the Federation of Islamic Councils said worshippers at a nearby mosque would hold a solidarity meeting with Christians Friday in hopes of calming the atmosphere. Still, authorities in the state of New South Wales said they "expect further problems" and are planning "a huge police presence" at the sites of the earlier trouble in which dozens of people have been hurt.

The suspected operations chief of an outlawed Islamist terror organization and its accountant were captured in separate raids by police in Bangladesh early Wednesday. The nationwide manhunt also turned up a large cache of guns and explosives and hundreds of publications extolling holy war. Additional explosives were seized in yet another raid in Chittagong, the No. 1 seaport. The organization, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, is blamed for a series of bombings that have killed 22 people since mid- November, most of them judges and lawyers. It seeks to impose strict Islamic law, or sharia, on the nation.

Relations between the government of Canada and its closest neighbor appeared at a new low after US Ambassador David Wilkins warned a gathering of business and other leaders that the Bush administration has wearied of "constant criticism" from Ottawa. He mentioned no names, but it was clear his remarks were aimed at Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, who is in a tough reelection battle. Asked for reaction, Martin said he would not be silenced and did not "accept at all" that the only way to have good relations with the US "is to concede everything" to it. Despite pledging to reverse the ties that deteriorated under his predecessor, Jean Chr├ętien, Martin repeatedly has blasted the US over bilateral trade in softwood lumber. He especially angered the administration last week by attacking its failure to pursue ratification of the Kyoto accord on climate control. Wilkins noted "respectfully" that the US environmental record is significantly better than Canada's and said, "All of us should hope that [the criticism] doesn't have a long-term impact" on the friendship.

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